Friday Files – Gear Giveaway, Worst Hunting Excuses, Selling Public Lands

HuntingBoots.com Rocky Gear Giveaway

Gear up with Rocky photo contest!

Rocky Gear has  new line of hunting apparel out called the Rocky Athletic Mobility (RAM) series.  You can win head-to-toe Rocky apparel from my friends at HuntingBoots.com.  All you have to do to enter is go here and submit a photo that includes your favorite piece of hunting gear.  Enter now…

Broken Fall

What would it be like to take an arrow through your leg?  Hopefully you will never find out, but Jeff Simpson faced this exact situation.  All it takes is one moment of poor judgement to put ourselves in harms way.  I admire Jeff for having the courage to share this story so that you and I can be reminded of the safety precautions that we all need to take, all the time!  Read Jeff’s story…

A Whitetailer’s Crutches: The Worst Excuses in Whitetail Hunting

I don’t know that we would always admit it, but hunter’s love their excuses.  Take a look at this article from Bowhunter magazine, which covers the whitetail hunter’s worst excuses.  Come on now, be honest – how many of these excuses have you muttered to your buddies?  See the list…

Official GOP Platform: Sell America’s Public Land

I try to stay out of politics on this site but there are certain issues that should be brought to your attention, regardless of which side of the aisle we are focusing on.  Consider this article, which doesn’t speculate, but looks at the official GOP platform regarding the idea that public lands should be privatized.  Find out more…

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Receives Largest Donation in History

And now, to balance the negativity from the last article, take a look at this!… “A wealthy hedge fund manager has set a record, donating 170,000 acres of prime wilderness land in Colorado’s pristine Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, making it the largest donation to the agency.”  It is so refreshing to see both a positive conservation story, as well as a positive story about those supposedly filthy, evil Wall Street crooks.  ;-)  Read more…

Hunt Recap – The First Weekend of the Season

Well, the first weekend of my 2012 whitetail season is in the books.  It was a typical hunt in the sense that it involved some highs, some lows, an exciting encounter, and a lot of ‘down time’.  That is quite a bit to experience – especially considering the fact that all that came with no deer sightings to speak of.

Opening Day – The Morning Hunt

The Morning View

The conditions on opening morning were great.  It felt amazing to step outside and really feel fall for the first time.  (If you didn’t catch my last post, be sure to check that out for some deeper reflections that I felt as I started my season that morning.)

My Elite was ready to go!

The one thing that wasn’t right on opening morning was the wind.  I had a pretty good idea of a treestand location that should show me some morning activity, but the southern wind just wasn’t right for that setup.  I didn’t want to risk disrupting any behavior in that spot, especially since I have also seen some great bucks in that area during the evening.

I decided to set up near the high spot of a finger ridge.  I hunted this area a few times last year, but never this early in the season.  I didn’t expect much activity from this spot for a morning hunt, but I wanted to check this area out for one reason – acorns.

Although my morning hunt passed by without a single encounter, I still counted it a worthwhile time because I gained some valuable intelligence on this area, including which trees were producing acorns.  Overall, it was just an absolutely wonderful morning in the woods.  It felt great to be back in the hunt!

Opening Day – The Evening Hunt

The Evening View

The afternoon and evening winds were still coming out of the south, which was perfect for my plans.  I was heading to the edge of a very steep, thick bedding area, which opened up to a water source and led further down a timber funnel to a hay field.  My hope was to catch some deer movement as they were transitioning out of the bedding area and on their feet to browse in the late evening.

This was the spot where I got photos of the Bigwoods Bruiser, and though I hadn’t been able to check that camera before this hunt, I did pull the card before I climbed up for the evening and it had 200+ pics on it.  Would I see him tonight?

Looking over the trail

I’ll save you the extraneous details from a long, frustrating story – but let’s just say that getting setup in this area was extremely difficult and I came incredibly close to giving up this evening hunt.  But in the end, I am glad I stuck it out.  Sometimes the most difficult spots to reach and hunt can be the most rewarding!

I settled in for the evening and awaited ‘prime time’.  Right about 7:00 I heard some movement behind me, coming out of the bedding area.  I couldn’t see anything through the thicket, but whatever this was, it was coming – slowly, but surely.

I finally caught a glimpse of some movement, just 10 yards away, but I still couldn’t make anything out.  After another minute, and much to my dismay, a coyote stepped out.  He worked his way towards me, reaching the base of my tree, and then began to step out in front of me.  Just as he was clearing the bottom of my stand he caught me and busted out of there.

Darkness fell as quickly as the coyote fled, and just like that my hunt was over.

After the Hunt

Once I got home that night I reviewed the photos from the card that I pulled and confirmed two things.

1)      I made the right call in avoiding this area on opening morning.  It looks like I would have had quite a bit of activity, but it was all coming in from what would have been the upwind direction.  As much as I wanted to hunt this spot that morning, I am glad I made the right call in waiting for better conditions.

2)      I have more photos of the Bigwoods Bruiser visiting this area in shooting light, as well as another quality buck.  In fact, they were both right under my stand at 7:10pm, just 2 nights before the season opener.

In Conclusion

This is the first full season that I have had access to this property, and the first time that I have hunted it before late October.  I’m really enjoying the process of learning this new ground and putting the pieces of the puzzle together.  I can’t wait to see what this season brings!

Reflections from Opening Morning – The Unseeen Fortune of a Hunter

Hiking by Headlamp

Well, it is official – my hunting season has begun!  I got out a couple of times this weekend and I’ll be headed out again tomorrow evening.  No blood has been spilled yet, but I had a great time getting back into the woods and entering the hunting mindset.  I feel so at home out there, as if there is a piece of myself that can only be found in the stillness of the forest.  I’ll probably share a bit more about my first week of hunting on Wednesday, but for now please read this piece I published for Wired to Hunt.  Enjoy!

………………..

The density of true darkness is compelling. And the moon – on its final day before a new phase would begin tomorrow – could do little to penetrate it. The stars were bright and would certainly be helpful for navigation if I was aboard a ship at sea, but they were useless in helping me find my way through the timber. I had no choice but to turn on my headlamp. The light, at its lowest setting, permeated the blackness with force. The bright beam was diffused only slightly by my breath, which was rising, slightly visible in the cool air.

I found comfort in the fact that I could see my breath. Comforted, not because it was proof that I was breathing – that was certainly never in question – rather, I found comfort because this visible vapor was evidence that the crispness of fall was beginning to manifest itself.

I continued to hike, present in the moment, yet also lost in my thoughts, anticipation, and recollection of previous hunts. I soon arrived at my destination – a massive oak that I would call home for the morning. I dropped the stand from my back, unloaded my climbing sticks, secured my harness, and began my ascent.

Now, settled 20’ up in the oak, the thoughts and anticipation that were previously racing through my mind skidded to a halt as they came in contact with the apparent stillness of my surroundings.  I always love being tucked up into a tree in the darkness, before the morning breaks.  I feel alone, as if I am in a sea of nothingness, yet I know that life surrounds.  I can’t see the other trees, yet I trust that they are there.  I can’t see the terrain, but I know it rises and falls all around me.

As I think about the gravity of being lost in these invisible surroundings I am struck by the deafening scream of silence.  It is odd, really.  How silence has become something that yells with more vigor than the loudest of sounds.

The concept of an “awkward silence” hints at the fact that, at one point, moments of silence were comfortable.  Now, in our world of constant busyness, never-ending entertainment, and limitless technology, all silence has become awkward.  The modern man’s encounters with silence are nothing more than fleeting seconds that occur between diversions.

The breeze that is drifting out of the East will soon be accompanied by an orange glow coming from the same direction.  Light will rise, and with it, life.  And this day – the opening day of my 2012 whitetail season – will officially begin.

Maybe I will have the opportunity of killing a deer and providing some quality, natural protein for my family.  Maybe I will get to experience the joy of harvesting – or even just seeing – a buck that is a noble representation of the breed, a true trophy.  Maybe I will merely get to encounter nature and escape the incessant tediousness of the developed world; indeed, I already have.

No matter what may come to be as light delivers day, I have already experienced many things that have revealed to me how fortunate I am to be a hunter.

Darkness, silence, solitude, space, clarity – these are gifts given to the hunter.  Let us not ignore them.

This article also appeared on WiredToHunt.com

Wired To Hunt Logo

One Year Later and 55 Pounds Lighter – 5 Keys to Success and 5 Lessons Learned

There were two uncomfortable things about this moment – the cold metal under my bare feet and the pungent odor that reminded me of a high school locker room.  As uneasy as these things made me feel, it was nothing compared to the next thing that I was about to experience.

Stepping on the scale

I wanted to open my eyes and peek; I wanted to know the truth.  But I also wanted to keep hiding, to keep ignoring, to keep pretending.

Finally my curiosity overwhelmed my apprehension and I opened my eyes to look down at the number on the scale below.  Those simple numbers were perceived by my eyes and then wired through transmitters where my brain was able to comprehend them.  My brain then kicked in to process these numbers and I thought one simple thought…

Huh?  So that is what I weigh.  That sucks.

I was surprised, calm, furious and sad.

I knew that I had to change.  More importantly I knew that I could change.  Most importantly…I began to change.

I created an Excel spreadsheet that I would use to log the numbers every time I weighed myself.  This spreadsheet would not only show me how much I weighed on a certain date, it would show me how much I had lost or gained since the previous date, and since the beginning of my records.

I began that spreadsheet on August 27th, 2011 and I stopped using it on March 27th, 2012.

Over the course of those 7 months I lost 55 pounds!

And today, over a year after all of this began, I am still at my goal weight.  Let’s take a look at 5 ways I found success and 5 lessons that I learned along the way…

Finish line at the race

Key to success #1 – Expectations matter

Your expectations will make or break your plans from the beginning.  We all know people that have set off with good intentions of making a diet/exercise/lifestyle change, but they quickly give up.  Why?  There are many reasons, but one of the primary reasons is that they are expecting unrealistic results in an unrealistic timeframe.  My expectations were simple – to lose weight each week, and to exercise more each week.  It didn’t matter how much I lost, or how much further I was able to push myself in training, all that mattered to me was that I was moving in the right direction.

Key to success #2 – Sweat the small stuff

Small stuff matters.  Small decisions, when compounded together, determine your destiny.  It doesn’t matter if we are talking about time, energy, food, or exercise – realize that your small choices are what make or break you.  Your health is a massive collection of small decisions; make the right ones.

“I know the power obedience has of making things easy which seem impossible.” - Saint Teresa

Key to success #3 – Plan ahead

This may be one of the most critical steps to becoming healthy.  Far too often we are living at a hectic pace and simply “going with the flow”.  A healthy life takes intentionality.  It takes planning.  Plan your week.  Plan your training time.  Plan and prepare your meals in advance.  Plan what lunch you are going to bring to work.  Plan what you are going to buy before you go to the grocery store.  Plan, plan, plan.

Key to success #4 – This, not that

You aren’t perfect and your plans won’t be perfect.  You can’t eat perfect and you can’t keep a perfect training schedule.  Sometimes the best small decision you can make is to choose the lesser of two evils.  Like the popular book says, “Eat This, Not That!

We make “this or that” decisions all the time.  Becoming healthier is about realizing how many times we are faced with that decision and it is about making the better choice.  This may not feel better or taste better, but it will be better than that in the long-run.

Key to success #5 – Process not products

Contrary to what the late-night infomercials and creepy commercials may tell you, there are no miracle products.  There is no shortcut to true and lasting health.  Don’t look for magical products, rather focus on the process of becoming healthy!

Now, that said, there are products that can help you in your diet and training.  But my advice is to always look for products to enhance what you are already doing.  I started 100% clean with no products, supplements, or anything of the sort.  After I proved my diet and training, then I began to look for products that would help me enhance and sustain what I was already doing.  (That is when I began using Wilderness Athlete.)

Running the trails

Lesson Learned #1 – 24 Hours is a long time

We’ve all said it – “There just aren’t enough hours in the day.”  Most days feel that way, they really do.  But 24 hours is a long time.  Maybe the day is long enough but we don’t use it properly.  Maybe we waste too much time.  Maybe we aren’t efficient enough.  Maybe there is time to train.

I understand what it is to be busy.  I work 40+ hours, I have a 3-year-old, and an 8-month-old, a wife, and a house.  I write a lot, I practice, I run, I volunteer, I serve, etc.  There are enough hours if we take advantage of them with wisdom and intentionality.

Lesson Learned #2 – Sleep is better than rest

Like I was saying, we waste too much time.  Rest isn’t sitting on the couch and watching television or playing on the Internet.  That is stimulation and it will actually hinder your sleep, and sleep is where you can truly rest.  Do work.  Take advantage of your time.  Don’t lose sleep because you are staying up and doing something dumb.  Rest for real.  Be so tired and exhausted when you go to bed that you can’t help but sleep like a baby.

“Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired.” -  Jules Renard

Lesson Learned #3 – Comfort is the enemy

We live in a society that is built on comfort.  Everything is about our comfort.  This has made us a weak and comfort-dependent people.  Comfort is the enemy.  Push yourself out of your comfort zone.  Do something that is a challenge.  Do something that will hurt.  Question why you do what you do – how much of your actions are motivated by comfort and ease.  Change.

Lesson Learned #4 – Rewards are best when earned

Work hard and then reward yourself.  Period.  End of story.  (And don’t confuse the order of those two things.)

Lesson Learned #5 – It is possible

I think you are capable of far more than you believe.  In fact, I know you are.  There is only one way to figure out what is possible and what is impossible, and that is to try.  Running 18 miles on some of the toughest trails in the state sounded impossible to me last year.  Now, it is very possible, in fact I’ve done it.  Pick something impossible and go after it.  The only way to truly fail is to never try.

My Family

Getting in better shape has certainly made me a more effective hunter, which is nice, but what truly matters is that I am now a more healthy person.  Don’t take your health lightly.  There are people in your life that love you and depend on you, and you owe it to them to take care of yourself so that you are able to take care of them.

If you have any specific diet/training questions about my weight loss, I would be happy to answer them for you.  I’m no expert, so all I can share is my experience.

“Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice
with courageous patience.” - Hyman Rickover

 

The Friday Files – What Deer Eat, Ground Attack, Backpacking in the Mackenzie Mountains, and more…

Acorn Husk

What Deer Eat: Understand the Hard Mast Puzzle

If you are going to be successful hunting whitetail in the timber then you need to understand “the hard mast puzzle”.  Agriculture and food plots simply do not exist where I spend the majority of my time hunting, so acorns and other hard mast are critical to my understanding of deer behavior on my properties.  However, on a year like this one – with the drought that we have faced – understanding this puzzle may prove to be a bit difficult.  This article from Outdoor Life has some great insights.  Learn more…

Ground Attack: Bowhunting Whitetails without a Blind

Killing a whitetail buck with a bow, from the ground, and without a blind.  This sounds like an unproductive endeavor, or maybe even an impossible one.  However, as Tracy Breen illustrates in this article, it can be a worthwhile and successful way to hunt.  Ready about Tracy’s tactics…

Backpacking in the Mackenzie Mountains

Pedro Ampuero embarked upon a trip that many bowhunters will only dream of, and he shares his journey with a series of excellent articles and stunning photos.  You have to check this out!  Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV

Outrage over Melissa Bachman Termination by National Geographic Producers

Melissa Bachman is a well-known hunter that is heavily involved in outdoor media.  She recently had the opportunity to expand outside of the hunting niche and participate in National Geographic’s show, “Ultimate Survivor Alaska”.  However, National Geographic abruptly decided to pull Melissa from the show due to an outcry of opposition from anti-hunters.  Is the story as simple as it seems?  Did National Geographic really pull Bachman simply because she is a hunter?  Hunting Life has an excellent write-up on the timeline of events that led up to National Geographic pulling the plug on Melissa.  Read the article…

Teens ticketed for poaching, spotlighting ‘giant’ deer

I hate reading articles like this, especially when the crime takes place in my home state.  Poaching is a horrible, wretched activity.  The only good thing about a story like this is the fact that the perpetrators were caught!  Read the story…